Whether you dream of studying anthropology in Ghana or business in Germany, one scholarship can make it possible. Recent college graduates, graduate students and doctoral candidates with an interest in international travel and a passion for a field of study should take a look at the Fulbright Student Scholarship.
Supported by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Institute for International Education (IIE), the Fulbright Student Scholarship is the largest international exchange program for U.S. students. Awards are available in a variety of disciplines although most countries also have grants that allow applicants to shape their own projects. Projects may include university coursework, field and library research, teaching English, or a combination of these areas.
The Fulbright began in 1946 from a proposal by Sen. J. William Fulbright to promote “mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries around the world.” The program awards more than 8,000 grants annually and operates in 160 countries worldwide.
Fulbright Scholarship Acceptance Rate
Generally, the acceptance rate for Fulbright Scholarships is 20%, although it does vary year by year but only by a few percentage points.
To be eligible for the Fulbright Student Scholarship:
• Students must be U.S. citizens and in good health.
• Applicants must be a graduating college senior, BS/BA degree holder, or a master’s or doctoral degree candidate.
• Some Fulbright positions require proficiency in the language of the country where the project will take place – of if working in creative and performing arts, four years of professional training and/or experience.
• Preference is given to students who have not resided or studied for longer than six months in the country to which they are applying.
Unlike other scholarship programs, the Fulbright Scholarship has factors that make applicants automatically ineligible. They include:
• Applicants who hold or will hold a doctoral degree by the time of application.
• Applicants seeking enrollment in a medical degree program abroad.
• Anyone who has lived abroad for five or more years in the six-year period preceding application.
• Former employees (and even contract employees from public and private agencies) of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Agency.
• Officers, board members and or trustees of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Fulbright Commission and J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, as well as immediate family members.
• Finally, in some cases, applicants with dual-national citizenship may not be able to apply in the country of his or her own nationality.
Fulbright Scholarship GPA
The Fulbright Scholarship does not require a certain GPA for eligibility. However, many colleges may have GPA requirements for their applicants to the Fulbright Program.
With thousands of applicants each year, the Fulbright is a competitive award. If you are serious about winning, get started on your application early. For application advice, attend an IIE guidance session, which are held around the country. Talk with a local Fulbright program advisor and your academic advisor as you work on your proposal.
When preparing your Fulbright proposal, consider:
• With whom do you propose to work?
• What is unique, new or exciting about your project?
• Where will you study or research? Why is it important to go abroad to carry out your project?
• Why do you want to do it?
• How will your project help further your academic or professional development?
The Fulbright program selects winners based on: academic/professional record, language preparation, feasibility of the proposed project, personal qualifications, and extent to which the project will further the Fulbright aim of promoting mutual understanding among nations.
While anyone with a Fulbright Scholarship can call themselves a Fulbright Scholar, there are distinctions within the program.
Study/Research. These are open to applicants interested in academic study or research as well as creative and performing arts. Applicants can propose their own independent study or enroll in a graduate program.
English Teaching. This particular program is open to those who want to teach English as a second language.
Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowships. This distinction is open to those that want to look closely at a globally relevant issue in one country – or how the same issue presents itself in different countries.
Fulbright-Fogarty Awards in Public Health. These opportunities are offered to promote the expansion of research in public health and clinical research in resource-limited settings.
Fulbright Application Timeline
Students in college should start the process during the spring semester of their junior year. Between February and September, there are information sessions, webinars and campus events that students can attend in order to receive more information and find out if the Fulbright Program is right for them. Shortly after, in April, the online application opens to any interested applicants.
Between August 1 and October 1, students on college campuses will be required to meet their institution’s Fulbright deadline, which they can learn about through their campus Fulbright advisor. For those not currently attending college, the national deadline is at the beginning of October, which may change based on the application year.
Applications are judged during November and December, and students begin receiving initial notification of their Fulbright application status at the end of January or beginning of February. At this time, they will learn whether or not they’ve made it to the next round of judging. Finally, applicants are notified of their final Fulbright status between March and May.
Fulbright Award Benefits
All U.S. Fulbright recipients will receive the following:
• Round-trip transportation to and from the host country.
• Funding to cover room, board and incidental costs, based on the cost of living of the recipient’s particular country.
• Accident and Sickness Health Benefits.
• 24/7 support for urgent and non-urgent circumstances.
Some country programs may also provide:
• Book and research allowances.
• Mid-term enrichment activities.
• Full or partial tuition.
• Language study programs
• Pre-departure and in-country orientation opportunities.
The Fulbright Scholarship is a unique opportunity for those with academic, creative and global ambitions. It is a multi-year application and grant commitment. Students interested in becoming a Fulbright Scholar should be sure it’s the right path for them.